Island of Icarus, my steampunk romance, is told completely from the perspective of Jonathan Orms, a professor of biology from 19th century London. Although I wouldn’t have written Icarus in any other way, when I look back now I realize, “You know, writing romance in the first person…can be pretty challenging.” A lot of tension in love stories is built around experiencing both characters’ feelings—giggling as the characters dance around each other.
Her: He must find me hideous, because he is so much more beautiful than I am! Let me avoid eye contact.
Him: Oh, she wants nothing to do with me. She doesn’t even look at me.
Her: God, his hand is so warm on mine. Can he feel my pulse quicken?
Him: I can feel her body stiffen. Why does she hate my touch?
Interactions like these have me clutching the book and mentally screaming, “Come on, guys! Get with the program! You two are DROOLING over each other!” Unfortunately, this kind of interplay is lost in first person narratives. There was at least one scene in Icarus that I had to alter because the narrator would not have noticed a significant look that his new friend gave him…but I wanted the reader to!
Writing a first person romance in a Victorian voice was an even greater challenge. While I don’t mind 19th century writing, it’s easy for it to turn into a train wreck. I think my editor would roll up my manuscript and whack me on the head with it if I tried to write a paragraph-long sentence with six semicolons. Trying to maintain my narrator’s prim Victorian voice but not lose the integrity of my own writing style was a balancing act. It was also a lot of fun.
Despite the challenges, I was completely set on writing Island of Icarus in the first person. Maybe it’s because I’m crazy, or maybe it’s because I prefer the first person. Heck, maybe I prefer the first person because I’m crazy. Really, I love seeing the world through someone else’s eyes and speaking with his voice. I think it makes the narrative more convincing; I’m not an author telling a made-up story, I’m the character sharing my experiences!
There is also a story-specific reason I chose first person for Island of Icarus. Icarus was inspired in part by The Island of Dr. Moreau, a Victorian novel written in the first person. I wanted to preserve the same personal element of adventure and discovery in Icarus.
Of course, there are tricks to write romance in first person—like alternating the narrative. I think Maggie Stiefvater (author of Shiver) and the other two Merry Sisters of Fate do this best, as in this story. I tried this in my short romance, Fear of Darkness, to a lesser extent (but most of it is still told from one character’s point of view).
By telling Icarus solely from Jon’s point of view, I do regret one thing—not being able to explore my other hero, Marcus, in greater depth. Marcus is an interesting character—a talented surgeon and engineer who just can’t sit still. He always has to explore, to tinker, to build. He is sociable and charismatic, yet he lives alone on a deserted tropical island. I wanted to know what it was like to be inside his mind—especially when he first meets Jon!—so I decided to write a “deleted scene” just for him. It takes place near the beginning of Icarus, so you don’t need to worry about spoilers. I invite you to read it at my website!
Love, fangs, and fur ^_^
–Christine, who is oh-so-enjoying a freak South Florida cool front
@dansedesirable at Twitter